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Athenagoras" is supposed to have been an Athenian. His apology was presented to Marcus and Commodus jointly, and therefore not till near the end of Marcus's reign, in the year 177 or 178. He tells the emperors that
alls other people experienced the benefit of their equita· ble goverument: but we christians,' says he, · because no
regard is had to us, nor any provision made for us, though we do no evil, and are in all things obedient to the Divine · Being, and your government, are harassed and persecuted • for the name only.- -We therefore entreat you to take
care of us, that we may no longer be put to death by • sycophants.
Athenagoras therefore does not speak of any edicts issued out against them, but only that they were neglected. They were accused by many, and put to death by the presidents, as christians, without any crime proved against them. And the emperor took no care of them, to protect them from the abuses of their enemies. However, though Athenagoras mentions not any new edicts against the christians, he supposeth that their sufferings were not unknown to the emperor, and that they had now for a long time been carried on with his connivance and permission.
In the same reign, about the yeart 177, another apology was presented by Melito, bishop of Sardis or Sardes (for the name is frequently written in the plural number by the ancients.) The apology is lost: but Eusebius has preserved a large fragment of it in his Ecclesiastical History. I quoted a part of it u some while ago : I now take another paragraph," which is remarkable for politeness, as well as upon other accounts.
* Pious men,' says he, are now persecuted and harass• ed throughout all Asia by new decrees, which was never • done before. And impudent sycophants, and such as • covet the possessions of others, taking occasion from the r See in this work, Vol ii. ch. xviii.
Ημεις δε οι λεγομενοι χριστιανοι, ότι μη προνενοησθε και ημων, συγχωρειτε δε, μηδεν αδικεντας, ευσεβεςατα διακειμενες και δικαιοτατα προς τε το θειον και την ημετεραν βασιλειαν, ελαυνεσθαι και διωκεσθαι- και δεομεθα υμων και περι ημων τι σκεψασθαι, όπως παυσωμεθα ποτε υπο των συκοφαντων σφαττομενοι. Athen. Ap. p. 180.
+ See in this work, Vol. ii. ch. xv. u See before, p. 127.
v H. E. l. 4. cap. 26. p. 147. 80 € πωποτε γενομενον, νυν διωκεται το των θεοσεβων γενος κοινοις ελαυνομενοι δογμασι κατα την Ασιαν. . Οι γαρ αναιδεις συκοφανται, και των αλλοτριων ερασαι, την εκ των διαταγματων εχοντες αφορμην, φανερως ληγευάσι, νυκτωρ και μεθημεραν διαρπαζοντες τες μηδεν αδικBντας -και ημεις ηδεως. . φερομεν τ8 τοιοτο θανατο το γερας-ει δε και παρα σε μη ειη η βελη αυτη, και το καινον τ8το διαταγμα, ο μηδε κατα βαρβαρων πρεπει πολεμιων, πολυ μαλλον δεομεθα σε, μη περιδειν ημας εν τοιαυτη δημωδει λεηλασια. Ρ. 147. Β. C.
edicts, rob without fear or shame, and cease not to plun• der those who have offended in nothing. And afterwards : • If these things are done by your order, let them be
thought to be well done. For it is not reasonable to be• lieve that a just emperor should ever decree what is un* just. And we shall cheerfully bear the reward of such a · death. This request, however, we make to you, that you • will first inform yourself concerning those who are engag• ed in this contention, meaning the christians, and then
judge whether they deserve death and punishment, or safeity and quiet. But if this resolution and new edict, which is not fit to be enacted against barbarians and enemies, proceeds not from you, [as we hope,] much more would we • entreat you not to neglect us, and give us up to this pub·lic rapine.'
This paragraph is very observable. Melito seems to speak of new edicts against the christians throughout Asia. Nor is it easy to contest or evade this testimony of Melito. For it may be well supposed to be only owing to prudent caution that he expresseth a doubt whether the edict, to which he refers, caine from the emperor or not. Tertullian indeed says that* Marcus published not any laws against the christians. But Tertullian did not know every thing that passed in the empire. There might be imperial edicts published in Gaul and Asia, which he was not acquainted with: Ruinarty reckons this passage of Melito a proof that there were then imperial edicts against the christians. As does also: Mosheim, whose observations upon this emperor's
* Quales leges istæ, quas adversus nos soli exsequuntur impii, injusti, turpes, truces? Quas nullus Hadrianus, nullus Pius, nullus Verus impressit. Ap. c. 5.
y Imperialia vero edicta adversus christianos tunc temporis vulgata fuisse, testatur Melito Sardensis in apologiâ apud Eusebium. l. 4. c. 26. Ruinart. Præf. num. 40. p. 43.
Neque satis videbatur Imperatori fræna laxare hostibus christianorum, quæ parens ejus injecerat. Addebat etiam edicta christianis inimica, per quæ voluntas deferendi et accusandi accendi poterat. Diserte Melito in Apologiâ apud Eusebium meminit “novorum in christianos edictorum in Asiâ pervulga
torum,' unde impudentissimi homines occasionem caperent palam diu noctuque grassendi. Et acerbissima fuerint hæc edicta necesse est.-Tertium ergo locum sapientissimus ille Iinperatorum Marcus, Philosophus ille, cujus hodie sapientiam admirari non cessamus, post Neronem et Domitianum inter vere et proprie dictos christianorum persecutores meretur Vellem hoc Marci edictum ad nos pervenisset Quamquam in Melitonis loco inest aliquid, unde hujus generis atrox illud Marci edictum esset, conjecturam facere licet. Perhibet illa, impudentissimos et alienarum opum cupidos' delatores, lege Marci ad christianos diu noctuque invadendos invitari. Igitur habebat aliquid edictum hoc, quod spem ostendebat hominibus avaris et argenti cupidis ex alienis opibus suas augendi. Hoc posito, quod apertum est, credibile videri debet, imo prope certum, Imperatorem, præmio proposito, accusatores christianorum veluti evocâsse, atque illis bona et opes eorum, quos in judicio criminis cujusdam convicissent, addici jussisse. Mosh. De Řeb. Christianor. &c. Sec. 2. sect. xv. p. 241, &c.
conduct toward the christians I shall place below, to be considered by such as are pleased to attend to them: who also thinks he has discovered the severity of those new edicts to which Melito refers. He supposeth that the emperor sent an edict against the christians, appointing also that the accusers and prosecutors of the christians should be entitled to their possessions, as a recompense for their zeal against them.
I should rather think there was no occasion for any edict of the emperor to put christians to death. The case seems to me to have been this. Several, perhaps many, christians had been put to death in Asia at the importunity of the common people, and by virtue of Trajan's rescript. The Roman proconsul in Asia was at a loss how to dispose of the effects and estates of those sufferers: he therefore sent to the emperor for direction in this affair. The emperor wrote back that their goods and possessions should be given to the accusers and informers. This resolution or edict, Melito says, was such as was ó not fit to be enacted against enemies and • barbarians. And he says to the emperor, · If this edict • be yours, we will bear the reward of such a death :' [we will endeavour contentedly to bear the loss of our goods, with which others are rewarded for accusing us, and procuring our death.] For certain, such encouragements would make prosecutions frequent ; and Melito might have reason to say, as he does at the beginning of the paragraph cited by us:
· Pious men are now persecuted and harassed throughout all Asia.'
II. I shall take no farther notice of apologies, but immediately proceed to the martyrdoms of this reign, I shall say nothing more than I have already done of Justin,a or other martyrs mentioned by him at the beginning of his second apology: but I shall give some account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, and then a large account of the martyrs at Lyons. The reasons of my doing so will be manifest bereafter. They are a necessary part of the history of this renowned emperor; and the state of christianity in this early age will be much illustrated.
The time of the martyrdom of Polycarp has been disputed. I still think, as formerly said, that he died in the year of our Lord 167 or 168. His death is placed by Eusebius, and Jerom after him, in the time of Marcus Antoninus, in what they call the fourth persecution. Says Eusebius,d in his Ecclesiastical History, ' Antoninus, surnained the pious, • being dead, he was succeeded by Marcus Aurelius Verus, * called also Antoninus, and Lucius Verus. At that time • the persecutions being violent in Asia, Polycarp ended
a See Vol. ii. ch. X. b Ibid. ch. vi.
• Hieron. De V. J. cap. 17. Chron. p. 169.
his days by martyrdom.' Whereby, I think, Eusebius intends to intimate that there were then persecutions in several places in Asia, and not at Smyrna only.
Some while after the death of Polycarp, the christians at Smyrna sent an account of it in a letter to the christians at Philadelphia, Philomelium, and other places, who had expressed a desire to have it from eye-witnesses. The letter is to this purpose : “ Thee church of God which is at Smyrna * to the church at Philomelium;'[or Philadelphia, in another copy;] and to all the congregations of the holy catholic • church in every place; the mercy, and peace, and love of
God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied. · We have written to you, brethren, concerning those who • have suffered martyrdom, and particularly concerning the · blessed Polycarp; who by his martyrdom as it were seal' ed up and put an end to the persecution. After which, says Eusebius, ' before they speak of Polycarp they relate the sufferings of the other martyrs, describing their constancy under the torments which they endured ; and how • all who stood round them were astonished, seeing them • scourged till their veins and arteries were laid bare, and
even their entrails became visible; after which they were * laid upon the shells of sea-fish, and upon sharp spikes, • fixed in the ground, with many other kinds of torture: ' in the end they were cast to wild beasts to be devoured .by them. They are particular in the account of the gene* rous Germanicus, who, being corroborated by the divine grace, overcame the fear of death implanted in the nature
For when the proconsul advised him to think of * his youth, and to spare himself
, and not throw away his • life in his flourishing age, he was not at all moved there.by. But, as they say, he enticed and stimulated the wild
beasts to approach him, that he might be the sooner dis* missed from this evil world. Presently after that glorious
exit, the whole multitude cried out, “ Away with the impious. Let Polycarp be sought for." There following . then a great noise and tumult, and having in view the wild • beasts and other tortures, Quintus, a Phrygian, was intimidated, and gave way; as did also some others with him,
6 of men.
á H. E. l. 4. c. 14. fin. c. 15. in. p. 128. 1. 4. c. 15. p. 128. &c.
e Euseb. H. E.
• who without a truly religious fear had rashly presented 'themselves before the tribunal. When the admirable
Polycarp heard of the demand made for him, he was not at all disturbed, but continued to be in a firm and composed temper of mind; and he resolved to stay in the city. Nevertheless, at length he so far complied with the request 'of his friends, as to retire to a country house not far off ; where he abode with a small company, spending the time night and day in continual prayers to God, offering up *supplications for the peace of the churches throughout the world : which indeed was his constant usage. Moreover, three days before his apprehension, having been at prayer, ‘ and falling asleep in the night time, he had a vision of the pillow under his head consumed by a flame of fire. When he awoke be related the vision to those about him, and letting them know that he thence concluded that for the • testimony of Christ he should lose his life by fire. And • when they, who were sent out to apprehend him, were
using their best diligence to find him out, they say that 6 for the love of the brethren he was constrained to remove . again to another place. However, in a short time, his
pursuers, by informations given them, were led to the place • where Polycarp was. Coming thither in the evening, they • found him resting in an upper room; whence it was not • difficult for him to remove to another house; but he would
not, saying: - The will of the Lord be done.” He then ( went down to the men, and talked to them in a free and · cheerful manner, and ordered meat to be set before them,
begging that they would allow him the space of one hour, • in which he might pray without disturbance. Prayer be• ing ended, they set him upon an ass to carry him into the
city. As they were going he was met by Herod the Ire• narch, and his father Nicetas, who took him up into their chariot. As they sat together they endeavoured to persuade him, saying, “ What harm is it to say, Lord Cæsar, 6 and to sacrifice, and so to be safe ?” At first be made no an
swer : but, when they were importunate, he said, " I will never do what you advise." They then began to reproach bim, and they thrust him out of the chariot so hastily, that • in getting down his leg was bruised : but he got up and
went on cheerfully, as if he had suffered no harm, till he 6 came to the stadium. When he was brought before the • tribunal there was a great shout of the multitude. As be • came near, the proconsuli asked him if he was Polycarp.
f In the ancient Latin edition of this epistle, which may be seen in Ruinart, and elsewhere, the proconsul's name, near the end, is said to be Statius Qua